Theme: Interpreting the Prophetic Writings
Leading Question: Can a person be saved who has never heard of the Bible or listened to its message?
1. Interpreting prophetic writings: helpful, but not essential (Rom 2:14-16). In a lesson with the theme of “interpreting” the prophetic writings, it is intriguing that in the standard adult lesson guide the first passage listed for Sunday’s lesson is Romans 2:14-16, the passage that indicates that those who have never heard the Good News can still be saved. If that is true, then what is the proper role for interpreting the prophetic writings? Is it going too far to say that the ability to interpret is a helpful gift, but not an essential one?
2. Preaching and teaching (Mark 1:17). When Jesus reached out to Simon and Andrew, inviting them to become fishers of men, he set the pattern for all believers. Our calling is to invite others to know the Lord who has become so precious to us. That means preaching and teaching, even if only at a very private level.
3. Time and place. A key principle in interpreting written documents is taking time and place into account. Take, for example, Jesus’ command to the rich young ruler to sell everything and give to the poor (Luke 18:22). Does that apply to all of us? In the very next chapter in Luke’s Gospel is the story of the wealthy Zacchaeus who pledged to give half of his goods to the poor. Jesus pronounced him a saved man (Luke 19:1-10). What does Jesus expect from each of us? We cannot appeal to just one story to answer that question. Knowing several stories can help us make intelligent and spirit-guided choices.
4. Context. “Acquaint now thyself with him and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee” (Job 22:21, KJV). These words from Eliphaz are frequently used as a general admonition for believers. The point is a good one: if we know the Lord, good will come to us. But their original setting is in the book of Job and the words were spoken by Eliphaz, one of Job’s friends. They were originally spoken as an accusation: If Job had been living right, he would not be in trouble. No wonder Job got angry at Eliphaz’s “nice” words. In short, knowing the context can make a difference in the meaning and application of Scripture. Usually, we simply need to read carefully and attentively and the meaning will be clear.